James Crosby - My Geochemical Life (so far...)

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My Geological and Leisurely Summer – France, Japan, USA and Skye

Hello all, welcome to the next insight into my geochemical life.

In the middle of August, I finally finished my MSc Geochemistry in St Andrews by submitting my research project. After some celebratory bevs and heavy goodbyes to my classmates, it was time to begin my summer.

First of all was to head off to Paris, France to attend DINGUE (Developments In Noble Gas Understanding and Expertise) at IPGP (Institut De Physique du Globe de Paris) and Goldschmidt at Le Palais de Congres de Paris. DINGUE was a much smaller conference, where I could meet the Noble Gas research community and see how they were using it for their own geochemical research. Goldschmidt, on the other hand, was an enormous conference, with thousands of academics attending. Here, I presented the research from my project which was warmly received by several people and closely scrutinised by other authors whom I disagreed with. Overall, a great experience. It was also great to meet some current PhD students at Cambridge who I shall be spending more time with in the near future.

Secondly was the epic voyage across Japan. An incredible 3 week journey from Tokyo through Nagano, Matsumoto, Takayama, Kurashiki, Hiroshima, Kyoto and finishing in Osaka. In addition to gaining great insight into foreign culture, I also learned a key lesson about myself – I am a country boy, not a city slicker. While in Tokyo I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the insane Japanese culture, highlighted by visits to various Temples, Shinto Shrines and unique Japanese architecture. However, my favourite experience was the fish market with the fresh sashimi. From Tokyo we went into the Japanese Alps (Nagano, Matsumoto and Takayama). The beautiful mountain setting was complemented by regionally varying food – the best of which was definitely the marbleized Hida beef. The venture to the local phenomenon of Kurashiki was fun, a preserved ancient city with an abundance of traditional Japanese architecture (likely recreated to adhere to tourist demand). The day trip to Hiroshima was sobering and inspiring. Here, we visited the Nuclear Dome ( the only piece of architecture surviving since the bomb drop), the museum and various memorials. It did a great job of not assigning blame, but instead relaying facts, showing the destruction caused by nuclear war and providing important lessons why nuclear war cannot be an option in the future. This was very sobering especially considering the topical nuclear rhetoric between the USA and North Korea. We finished the visit in Kyoto (the ancient capital before the Edo Period) and Osaka. While my time in Kyoto comprised more cultural observation, we decided to finish in Osaka to bring us back to the 21st century by visiting Universal Studios Theme Park.

The most striking observation I made while I was in Japan was how many Japanese people identify with two different religions at the same time – Buddhism and Shintoism. An interesting religious coexistence rarely observed.

Next was a 2-week trip back to where it all began: Tega Cay, South Carolina. The trip has 4 key aims, relax, play golf, eat fried chicken and visit family. Thanks to the great weather, the local golf course, Chick-Fil-A, and journey to a BBQ comedy and music festival and a NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) drag race all these goals were successful. Although watching the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium against the Buffalo Bills was a close second, the most enjoyable aspect was visiting my Brother and Niece. Having travelled all the way from Raleigh, North Carolina, we had a great weekend together for the first time in years.

Finally, the weekend before I leave to start my PhD in Cambridge I spent time with my girlfriend on the Isle of Skye. Skye is truly a beautiful island off the west coast of Scotland and I highly advise a visit. From the lighthouse on Niest Point through the striking views at the Old Man of Storr, this weekend was the outdoor enthusiasts' dream. Beware, you need a car and avoid school holidays, this island is not well equipped for the high demand of tourism.

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